Tell Me About It: "I'm dreading a holiday with my parents"
Kate Holmquist answers your life and relationship problems
Q Every summer my parents invite us to their villa in the south of France. It’s stunning and the children look forward to it all year, but I am dreading it this time, my husband even more so. I know how fortunate we are to have the opportunity, so hate to complain, but there are strains that get worse as the holiday goes on.
There will be at least a dozen of us sharing the house, as usual: my sister, who lives in the UK, with her husband and children, and my brother, who lives in the US, with his son.
We always start out full of love and anticipation. But soon I start to stress about the chaos. Each family gets one bedroom (the children sleep on blow-up mattresses on the floors or in a tent). The kids love it, as they all get along well, but having so many people in a four-bedroom villa without it descending into squalor takes organisation.
I spend most of my day cooking and cleaning. I like getting up early to go into the village for croissants, bread and fruit. Usually I pick up something for lunch and dinner as well because I like cooking, especially with the amazing ingredients there. This gives my parents a break, since they couldn’t do it all. But it does add up financially. My husband says the amount we spend on food for everyone would pay for a family holiday of our own.
This is what my husband wants – our own family holiday – but we can’t afford two holidays and I would feel guilty letting my parents down.
Yet I know the pattern will be the same this year. Everybody will start out tolerant and polite then, by day three, tensions will erupt. Last year my little sister and I had a childish row, which we still really haven’t sorted, because she took my sunscreen so I couldn’t find it. She’d headed off to the beach while I was tidying the house, which made me angry because she seemed oblivious to the mess.
My parents start to get tetchy too, and can be critical of my children’sbehaviour, even though they’re good kids. Last year my mother said they were “little bullies”, which they’re not.
My brother takes a back seat, not helping at all, like he’s in a hotel, but he gets on well with my parents.
He takes them out for meals, and pays for a couple of restaurant dinners for us all, so he’s the hero in their eyes.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my family and want to be with them, but by the end of the holiday I’m fed up.
A There are people who would regard your family reunion as their worst nightmare. Their advice would be: go to France, but stay in a nearby villa if you can afford it. On the other hand, it is a great strength that your family are close enough to spend time together like this, giving your children and their cousins a sense of belonging to an extended family, with all its foibles.